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Annex digital marketplace focuses on sustainability and affordability

'This type of project is what Our Food Future and Grow Back Better is all about'
20200618 annex market ts
The Annex marketplace will deliver goods on electric bicycles. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

A new digital marketplace allows Guelph residents to purchase a range of local products online and get them delivered straight to their door on a zero-emissions bicycle.

Through its Our Food Future initiative, the City of Guelph has supported the launch of Annex Guelph – an innovative food service that is partnering with local businesses to source and deliver grocery items and household essentials more sustainably and affordably. 

“We've got pretty much everything for groceries and we have a lot of Guelph products including beer, cider and wine from different producers,” said Sydney Coles, the manager at Annex Guelph. The market is a joint venture of the Cornerstone restaurant, Biomimicry Frontiers and the flagship Annex Market in Toronto.  

Customers can order online up until midnight for next-day delivery or pickup at the Cornerstone restaurant on Wyndham Street. A growing list of local businesses are selling everything from baked goods and preserves to fresh meat and produce. The Cornerstone is also selling its own house-made products including sauces and ready-made meals. 

Innovation in food distribution has been a key focus in Guelph and Wellington since the county was awarded $10 million last year from Infrastructure Canada for the Smart Cities Challenge. The joint proposal, called ‘Our Food Future’ aims to become Canada’s first circular food economy through increased access to affordable and nutritious food, business collaboration, and waste transformation.

But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the city to restructure its approach through a new strategy called ‘Grow Back Better’, which is providing funding for Annex Guelph. 

“This type of project is what Our Food Future and Grow Back Better is all about,” said Barbara Swartzentruber, executive director of the Smart Cities Office. “Annex Guelph is promoting collaboration between food entrepreneurs, farmers and social innovators, re-imagining our food delivery models, building community resilience and increasing access to healthy nutritious food.”

Coles said that Annex Guelph, which unofficially launched on May 22, coincides with a growing need to deliver food safely and conveniently. It also provides an opportunity for the Cornerstone and other businesses to get back on their feet after suffering lost revenue throughout the pandemic.

“It seemed like a really good opportunity for us to start something new,” she said. “We're hoping that even in a post-COVID world, we can continue to get fresh, healthy and local food delivered to people for really affordable prices.”

The Cornerstone restaurant is acting as a food distribution and preparation hub, which also allows the restaurant to bring more staff back to work. 

All orders are delivered on electric bicycles with attached wagons to reduce environmental impacts - a key component of the city’s social and economic recovery plan. 

Coles said the response from the community so far has been positive. 

“We've been pretty steady, which is really great,” she said. “We are ever growing, and we're still working on sourcing a lot of products so we welcome people getting in touch with us.”

In celebration of the official launch, a portion of proceeds will go towards the Seed’s Emergency Home Delivery Fund, which delivers food boxes to those most affected by the pandemic. Until June 30, donations received through the Our Food Future Harve$t Impact Fund will also be matched dollar for dollar to support community members in need. 

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